Throwback Thursday: The Chris Drury Trade That Broke A Young Boy’s Heart


Today’s throwback Thursday is going to have a bit of a personal twist. You see, Chris Drury’s name was on the back of the first Colorado Avalanche jersey I ever owned. I had just entered my teenage years, and the Avs were in the midst of their 2001-02 campain. The Avalanche were fresh off a Stanley Cup win, and Chris Drury had earned a reputation as one of the premier clutch players in the NHL. I had been saving up my money, and finally, had earned enough to buy myself an immaculate white Drury sweater with the Avalanche crest sewn on front! The jersey was baggy, so I had room to grow, yet never had a garment felt so right when I put it on. It was a perfect fit, and monumental moment in the life of a young Avs fan.

Sakic, Roy, and Forsberg were the legends. I always knew this, and those guys were childhood heroes of mine. But Drury was different. He was my favorite player. Chris Drury was scrappy and competitive, and did whatever it took to win. When the game was on the line, Drury put it all on the line to ensure his team were the ones celebrating at the final horn.

I took the paper, and saw the headline. My heart dropped straight through me, and bounced to a lifeless halt on the wood floor. Avalanche trade Chris Drury and Stephane Yelle to the Calgary Flames for Derek Morris, Dean McAmmond, and Jeff Shantz.

I gravitated towards Drury, because I never was the most talented athlete in the sporting days of my youth, but boy am I competitive. Those who know me can attest, I hate to lose. I appreciated that he worked his tail off to win, and saw the same fire in him that I have and respect in athletes. Drury was my guy. I could relate to him. If I would have played in the NHL, I would have wanted to play the game like Chris Drury.

I would have wanted to be the guy digging for a puck in the corner, or taking a cross check across the ribs to get to the front of the net in the waning moments. I would have wanted to be the guy that somehow weaved my way through traffic, as my legs burned, and willed a shot into the net in overtime. Drury scored eleven game winning playoff goals during his four seasons in Denver, the highest total in the NHL over that stretch. Clutch. To me, this is the coolest reputation in sports. Drury embodied it.

As the next season approached, life was good. The Colorado air had turned crisp. Snow had appeared on San Juan Mountains to the south, and the leaves were vibrant in yellow and orange hues as they danced in the light breezes signalling the start of autumn. My Drury jersey hung in my closet, ready to be draped over my lanky frame, in support of my team. My player. Optimism was in the air.

On October 2, 2002, I walked into the kitchen for breakfast. My mom, handed me a newspaper telling me that the Avs had made a trade, and if I knew the players involved. I took the paper, and saw the headline. My heart dropped straight through me, and bounced to a lifeless halt on the wood floor. Avalanche trade Chris Drury and Stephane Yelle to the Calgary Flames for Derek Morris, Dean McAmmond, and Jeff Shantz.

My mom could tell by the look on my face that something was wrong, but it took me a moment to formulate words. I was shocked. Flabbergasted. In Denial. How could the Avalanche trade my favorite player?!

When I finally pulled myself together, I told her they had traded Drury, the player who’s jersey I had bought just a few months earlier. I was in tears at this point. Never had I experienced my team giving up on a player I loved. This was the moment I realized that professional sports aren’t a fairy tale. We watch sports to escape reality, to latch on to heroes, and to experience moments that take our breath away. But on that day, I was just a young boy, knowing that I would no longer be watching my favorite player play for my favorite team. The illusion and magic of sports from my boyhood, was replaced by a realization that the reality of sports can be just as harsh as it is rewarding.

Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix wanted to acquire a young talented blueliner, and Derek Morris was the guy he coveted. When Morris arrived in Denver, he was advertised as “the next Rob Blake.” Morris never really panned out in the Mile High City, and was eventually shipped to Phoenix.

Ultimately, this trade was one of the few times that Pierre Lacroix really swung and missed. He generally was very adept at moving assets to acquire key pieces for Avalanche playoff runs. Stephane Yelle was a fantastic defensive third line center, and losing him hurt the Avalanche. McCammond and Shantz both struggled in Denver. Morris has had a nice career in the NHL as a very serviceable defenseman. However he was nothing more than average during his time with Colorado.

Chris Drury was a steep price to pay to acquire a young d-man. Lacroix made a living by taking calculated risks. His aggression and savvy were key factors in the decade of dominance in Denver. On this day though, Lacroix made a mistake. The Avs never should have traded Chris Drury. On this day, the only thing Lacroix managed to do, is break a young boy’s heart.